This Sunday, runners will bond together to complete the New York City Marathon. In the last five decades, the New York City Marathon has transformed from a small-scale local race confined to Central Park into the largest marathon on a global scale. Let’s take a look at the history behind this notorious race.
- The first New York City Marathon, organized by the New York Road Runners on September 13, 1970 in Central Park, had an entry fee of $1 and a $1,000 budget. Of the 127 registered runners, 55 finished.
- The 1975 New York City Marathon garnered notice as the U.S. women’s championship, and its 339 finishers signal its expansion beyond Central Park.
- The 1976 NYC Marathon, celebrated the U.S. bicentennial, ran through all five boroughs with 2,090 entrants and 1,549 finishers. Bill Rodgers and Miki Gorman set records, and Rodgers won four times in a row (1976–79).
- In her marathon debut, Norwegian Olympic track athlete Grete Waitz established a world record of 2:32:30 at the 1978 New York City Marathon. The next year, she surpassed her own record, achieving a historic sub-2:30 time for women with 2:27:33.
- Alberto Salazar, the NCAA cross country champion, claimed victory at the 1980 New York City Marathon in a record-breaking debut for an American, completing the race in 2:09:41. He went on to secure back-to-back wins in 1981 and 1982.
- In 1981, ABC-TV broadcast the New York City Marathon for the first time, marking the start of a national television partnership that lasted until 1993.
- In the 1980s, the New York City Marathon experienced a significant surge in participation, with the number of finishers nearly doubling from 12,512 in 1980 to 24,659 in 1989.
- Grete Waitz ran her ninth New York City Marathon victory in 1988 before retiring at age 37 following a fourth-place finish in 1990.
- In 1992, the New York City Marathon created a deeply moving moment in its history as race director Fred Lebow, who was in remission from brain cancer, completed the race in 5:32:34, with Grete Waitz accompanying him throughout the entire course.
- Lebow sadly passed away a month prior to the 1994 New York City Marathon, and Allan Steinfeld assumed the role of race director.
- In the 1994 race, Germán Silva from Mexico won in a dramatic fashion. He briefly took a wrong turn just half a mile from the finish line but managed to recover and pass his compatriot Benjamín Paredes by a two-second margin.
- Tegla Loroupe of Kenya was the winner in the New York City Marathon in both 1994 and 1995, marking her as the first African woman to claim a major marathon title.
- In the 1997 New York City Marathon, the number of finishers surpassed 30,000 for the first time, with a total of 30,427 participants crossing the finish line.
- The 2000 New York City Marathon introduced its first wheelchair division and added prize money in 2001.
- In 2001, the race took place less than two months after the September 11 attacks, symbolizing hope and recovery for the city and nation.
- The NYRR Team for Kids was launched in 2002, a group of adult runners raising funds for NYRR youth and community programs.
- In 2003, ING became the first title sponsor of the New York City Marathon, and Margaret Okayo of Kenya set a course record.
- Paula Radcliffe, the marathon world record holder, wins the 2004 New York City Marathon, with two more victories in 2007 and 2008.
- Mary Wittenberg took over from Allan Steinfeld as race director in 2005, becoming the first woman to direct a major marathon.
- Kurt Fearnley of Australia set a wheelchair division record at the 2006 New York City Marathon.
- The 2009 New York City Marathon boasts a record 43,660 finishers, with American Meb Keflezighi winning the men’s open division, the first American champion since 1982.
- In 2011, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya set an event record of 2:05:06 at the New York City Marathon.
- The 2012 New York City Marathon is canceled due to Hurricane Sandy, leading to runners participating in relief efforts, and NYRR contributes support.
- The 2013 New York City Marathon marks the first time in history with over 50,000 finishers.
- The first TCS New York City Marathon Youth Invitational took place in 2015, with kids running the final stretch.
- Tatyana McFadden sets a women’s wheelchair division record of 1:43:04 at the 2015 New York City Marathon.
- In 2017, Shalane Flanagan became the first American women’s open division champion in 40 years.
- The 2018 TCS New York City Marathon has a record 52,813 finishers, with Daniel Romanchuk becoming the youngest champion in the wheelchair division.
- Mary Keitany wins the 2018 women’s open division, securing her second-most victories in the race.
- The 2019 TCS New York City Marathon champions include Geoffrey Kamworor, Joyciline Jepkosgei, Daniel Romanchuk, and Manuela Schar, with over 53,600 finishers, making it the largest marathon in history once again.
- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon becomes a virtual event, drawing nearly 16,000 finishers from 108 countries worldwide.
- The 50th running of the TCS New York City Marathon in 2021 features health and safety protocols for runners, staff, and volunteers, with over 25,000 finishers led by champions in various categories.
- The 2022 TCS New York City Marathon returns to full capacity with over 47,800 finishers from 131 countries. Open-division champions are Evans Chebet and Sharon Lokedi, and Marcel Hug and Susannah Scaroni achieve course-record wins in the wheelchair division.
As we trace the journey of the New York City Marathon through the decades, it’s evident that this iconic race has not only evolved but also embodied the spirit of resilience, unity, and determination. From its humble beginnings in Central Park to its current status as the largest marathon globally, the New York City Marathon has left an indelible mark on the running world. It has witnessed historic moments, triumphs, and records, all while serving as a symbol of hope and recovery during challenging times. As the race continues to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances, it remains a testament to the enduring human spirit and the power of coming together to achieve remarkable feats. Here’s to the New York City Marathon’s storied past and the many incredible chapters yet to be written in its illustrious history.